To retain and protect: HR's big role in the healthcare industry

Updated: Nov 24, 2021

HEALTHCARE INDUSTRY: There are plenty of industries facing talent pressures at the moment, but none more so than the healthcare profession — and by extension — the HR leaders responsible for those workforces.

Joyce Wong, Regional HR Director for International SOS, says the protection of staff where their safety, security and health are at stake is an added layer of concern for healthcare HR professionals at this time. “In my industry, the focus is on securing the right calibre of experts who are willing to be posted to unconventional locations, such as mines, rigs and wind farms in geographically remote sites in the middle of deserts, tropical rain forests and oceans around the world,” she tells Chief of Staff Asia.

International SOS delivers health and security risk management and solutions on a project-centred, highly client-bespoke basis, often in regions and geographies that lack access to conventional medical services. “Our employees are often frontline workers, but in unexpected ways,” Wong says. “Not only do we employ doctors and nurses fighting the pandemic from the trenches, but also unsung project-related staff who may be establishing testing and vaccination centres, or auditing hotels for quarantine.”

Joyce, a human capital veteran of over 20 years describes staff retention as a key issue for every arm of the healthcare industry. “Talent development is vital to us because the professionals from which we can hire are confined to a limited pool,” she says, adding that poaching of expertise has long been an issue.

She continues that International SOS needs to forge a delicate balance between staff on the medical career ladder and also the management career ladder. “For a number of important reasons, we need to have a good mix of medical professionals within the organisation for both the medical side of the business but also in managerial roles.”

Healthcare’s mental health

HR professionals in the healthcare industry also need to remain constantly mindful of the risk of all of these competing pressures becoming too much on individual doctors or nurses, or worse, even whole teams of staff. “Apart from the employees themselves needing to acknowledge the burnout, managers need to be able to identify the signs of burnout in their teams and take proactive steps to support them,” Wong says.

Joyce says mitigating these risks takes a lot of forward-planning. HR must ensure that their people are well trained and protected. Onboarding in healthcare also needs to be done thoroughly and systematically. Going even earlier in the employee lifecycle, “the recruitment process also needs to be very stringent in order to ‘get it right' the first time”.

Mental wellness is a major talking point presently. Daily, the media highlights the superhuman efforts of not just frontline healthcare workers but also those working behind the scenes in contact tracing, vaccination drives, project management, operations and of course healthcare workers dealing with all non-Covid-19 related medical requirements.

The life and death nature of healthcare work has increased exponentially with the pandemic, and this has had a natural impact on the mental health of those involved. Fortunately, organisations are rising to that challenge.

“I notice that there is now better acceptance in protecting and supporting the mental wellbeing of workforces in this region, (which) is vitally tied to the concern of burnout,” Joyce says, adding that data analytics should also be used to provide objective and non-judgmental support.

HR leaders should also ensure that their organisations are taking a long-term view of each of their staff member’s careers. Wong notes that there are many different tracks within a healthcare industry career, and individuals are not necessarily looking for lifetime employment. Rather, in line with the gig economy, workers of all levels are constantly considering where synergies exist between their individual’s goals and values and those of the organisation.

“I think that careful career development programs should be in place to assist in clarifying the individual’s ambitions and company opportunities needs to be accessible as well,” she concludes. “We need to remain resilient, open, flexible and innovative in this rapidly evolving landscape across countries and industries without losing the human touch.”

This feature was extracted from Chief of Staff Asia's report on HR in the Healthcare Industry. For further coverage, and access to the full report, please see any of the below links:

HR in healthcare: Fighting on many fronts (full report)

Healthcare staff face long-term risk: Chief of Staff report (news highlight) November 16, 2021

To retain and protect: HR's big role in the healthcare industry (feature) November 18, 2021

Healthcare industry: Will the pandemic help propel HR? (feature) November 22, 2021

Digital health passes: HR's big collaboration with tech (feature) November 24, 2021

Digital health passes: Flying into big technology history (case study) November 26, 2021

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